Finding the right fit
Coaching will not work for someone who does not have a desire to learn and grow. Also, not all coaches will click. There is an element of chemistry that needs to be right for a proper fit. Executive coaching is, therefore, recommended for business as a whole across all levels of leadership. If people are genuinely prime movers for the organization, adequate support for training and development should always be made available throughout the career of an individual. Here lies the success of the individual and the organization.
As global competition intensifies, visionary companies are investing in a pipeline of emerging executives who can be their competitive advantage. Today, competencies like business acumen and team leadership are being replaced with those like critical thinking and learning agility. Rather than move people laterally, we should think of development as helping the individuals to grow, expand, and integrate the different components of their personalities and their lives.
Organizations now have predetermined competencies they expect employees at each level to possess. So, if they identify a gap in employees’ skill sets, then they encourage them to take up executive education programs to help them reach their full potential. Typically, the duration of executive education will depend on various factors:
■ Gaps to be addressed
■ Severity of the problem/s ■ Time constraints
■ Present level of motivation ■ Company support for individuals, and
■ Other resources which are available
Today, there is a high demand for competency-based courses; and in customized programs the focus is on customization to a T. Companies also assess the impact of the program on the organization—cost saving, work hours saved, and most importantly how it has improved productivity. Customized programs offered to employees at different levels of a company represent the fastest growing segment of the market. Open, off-the-shelf, box programs also are available as part of executive education offerings, which happen throughout the year on select dates, and are open to participants of different levels from different companies and organizations. Shortduration programs focus on specific roles, or domain expertise, or specific leadership development skills, such as influencing communication, self and interpersonal persuasion, negotiation, team building, and understanding relations.
Management development programs (MDPs) help organizations increase their management capability by combining the science of business and performance management in specialized programs that enable executives to develop new knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Knowledge translates into the capability an organization applies to its products and services. Research
shows organizations that have clear, articulated, and well-understood business and capability strategies will have a higher market-to-book value than others. This calls for an inner quest for learning and personal development at all times. This is where continuing executive education helps; and if supported by good mentoring and coaching, it is all the more better for young leaders aspiring to rise to senior positions.
Increase in coaching in executive education programs follows a growing acceptance of coaches working closely and successfully with executives in varied industries—today, it is common to see many senior people proudly refer to others as ‘my coach.’ This has led to an increasing demand for faculty specializing in leadership and a corresponding need for coaches to work within programs. It is kind of a triple win-win for clients, for faculty, and for coaches.
Mastering individual competencies without the ability to translate those into measureable behaviorial change and business results is a model not likely to receive continuous support from business organizations. Executive coaching is a dynamic way to help individuals know where they have come from and where they want to see themselves in the future.
Coaching comes in a variety of flavors, but the goal is to help individuals be the very best as leaders, develop them holistically. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt says the best advice he ever got was to get a coach. Bill Gates emphatically says everyone should have a coach. Venture capitalist Fred Wilson advocates coaching too, especially for first-time CEOs. According to Mark Skinner, Senior Executive Coach at IMD, one-on-one time with a coach offers a rare, highly valued opportunity for an executive to be heard, understood and challenged by an objective, nonjudgmental open mind it can often be a life-changing experience.
A coach can offer guidance to put in place a strategic growth plan, bring to life company values, work through stressful interpersonal situations, and resolve any conflicts between employees.
Traditional academic thought leadership in a complex world needs to be translated by individual executives into learning that can be applied to the uniqueness of their own situation. Coaches can help individuals select and apply ideas from their experience and learnings to make a sustainable impact.
A coach helps an individual in many ways:
■ Understanding oneself, how one is perceived, and areas of concern ■ Making one aware of blind arenas ■ Helping build awareness of values, beliefs, and attitudes that may hinder growth ■ Providing support and confidence to take on risks and new challenges
■ Developing emotional intelligence, empathy, and encouragement
■ Offering support for specific skills—communication, delegation, conflict management, team building, persuasion, negotiation, self-understanding, etc.
In coaching, development can be targeted and truly individualised; impact can be measured fairly immediately and it can be a discrete and quiet intervention.
Collins and Holton (2004) suggest there is a shortage of competent,
Coaching comes in a variety of flavors, but the goal is to help individuals be the very best as a leader, develop them holistically. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt says the best advice he ever got was to get a coach.
effective leaders in business organizations. The senior leadership in many companies comprise baby boomers approaching retirement age, and as a result, there is an immediate need to develop younger effective leaders (Peterson, Deal, & Gailor-Loflin, 2003). In general, organizations are uneasy about their employees’ inadequate leadership skills, and are committed to formal education and training to help develop their younger employees’ management skills, competencies, and abilities (Conger & Benjamin, 1999).
It is important to realize that in this VUCA world, a good performer today need not necessarily be good in the following years. Constant, consistent upgradation and support need to be provided by HR and business heads.
Harvard Business Review conducted a survey of 140 leading coaches and invited five experts to comment on the findings. Commentators and coaches alike felt that the bar needs to be raised in various areas for the industry to mature, but there was no consensus on how that could be done. They did generally agree, however, that the reasons companies engage coaches have changed. Ten years ago, most companies engaged a coach to help fix toxic behavior at the top. Today, most coaching is about developing the capabilities of high-potential performers. As a result of this broader mission, there is a lot more fuzziness around such issues as to how coaches define the scope of engagements, how they measure and report on progress, and the credentials a company should use to select a coach.
David Gray makes a strong argument that coaches serve as educators. Coaching is said to work because it facilitates action learning. According to him, clients take action and learn, which leads to more action based upon what they learned, which leads to more learning, etc.
Ram Charan, in an article in HBR, says, “There’s no question that future leaders will need constant coaching. As the business environment becomes more complex, they will increasingly turn to coaches for help in understanding how to act. The kind of coaches I am talking about will do more than influence behaviors; they will be an essential
It is important to realize in this VUCA world a good performer today need not necessarily be good in the following years. Constant, consistent upgradation, and support need to be provided by HR and business heads.
part of the leader’s learning process, providing knowledge, opinions, and judgment in critical areas. These coaches will be retired CEOs or other experts from universities, think tanks, and government.”
Coaching as a business tool continues to gain legitimacy, but the fundamentals of the industry are still in flux. Diane Couty and Carol Kauffmak say, “A big problem that tomorrow’s professional coaching firm must resolve is the difficulty of measuring performance, as the coaches themselves point out in the survey. I’m aware of no research that has followed coached executives over long periods; most of the evidence around effectiveness remains anecdotal. My sense is that the positive stories outnumber the negative ones—but as the industry matures, coaching firms will need to be able to demonstrate how they bring about change, as well as offer a clear methodology for measuring results.” ■